The Enemy of my Enemy is my Co-Founder
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James Cole pulled the blinds of his office window shut against the early evening sun. He wore a tense and troubled face.

Until this morning, he didn't have the faintest inkling a man named Arjun Batra existed, let alone had been brought on to the company payroll. He sighed out through his nose and turned to lay his hand on a thin folder lying on his desk, pulling the incriminating file towards himself to fall into an open drawer, on top of a rectangular metal case.

He tried to hold out hope that there had been some misunderstanding.

With a resigned slump that pushed the remainder of his sigh out of him all at once, he plopped down into his chair. He pushed the desk drawer closed and sat in silence, his eyes fixed and staring ahead at his empty office. He waited, and he thought.

He wasn't given long to ponder things; the door to his office swung open. Horatio Avelar walked into the office, holding a bottle of champagne. His thick black mustache framed his wide smile, but the optimism soon faded from his eyes as he took in his old friend's uneasy mood. As a concerned frown took over his face, Horatio placed the bottle onto James' desk.

"What's wrong, James?" Horatio asked, hoping to brighten the atmosphere. "I figured you wanted to see me to celebrate. Our sales are phenomenal so far this month." He sat slowly in the stiff-backed chair set across from his business partner, who still hadn't quite seemed to register that he'd entered the room.

Horatio's mind analyzed the data available to it, eyes silently searching James' face for any clues to his thoughts. He truly had thought this would be a pleasant meeting; all of his projects had performed as expected, and the commercial applications were beginning to garner the company a bit of corporate fame. Hell, even his secret new prototype was showing promise.

His heart skipped a beat. His he hoped secret prototype.


James' eyes shifted their focus, from nothing to something. To the man he had known since college. To the man he thought he could trust. His voice was grim, as mirthless as his face. "Horatio, I need you to tell me about Arjun Batra."

Horatio swallowed, but cold dread kept climbing his throat. "Arjun is a lab assistant. I hired him a couple months ago. He's been helping out with some experiments."

"Why didn't you pay him this month?" James's flat tone gave no clue to his thoughts.

"He's… not working with us anymore. He's not trying to sue us or something, is he?"

"No," James replied, with a despairing sigh. He opened his desk drawer and pulled the folder out, lying it between the two of them. "Though, you know he isn't, Horatio." He opened the folder, revealing a photograph of a wooden cargo crate with its lid torn free. Inside it, contorted and still, was the body of a young Indian man. The body of Arjun.

"James, it's not what it looks like. He— he volunteered to undergo an experimental procedure to—" Horatio spoke quickly, desperate to make him understand.

"An experiment that killed him. I never believed you would do something like this, Horatio. I believed in you, in what you could accomplish. Hell, that's why I thought we should name the company after you. But now, Avelar is a murderer's name." James' eyes were welling with bitter tears.

"I didn't kill him! He isn't dead, James. The experiment was to upload his consciousness to a machine prototype I've created. He's still alive. More than alive, he's happy in there!" Horatio slammed his fist onto the desk, the loud bang would have alarmed any eavesdroppers, had there been any.

"Horatio," James said, shaking his head, "You can't really expect me to believe that. You're a goddamned genius, but you're also a goddamned idiot."

"He is, though. His mind, it's still alive. I have the machine, it's in my workshop. He's… He's…" Horatio faltered, trying to figure out how he could convince him he was telling the truth. "There's a readout. If you know how to interpret it, you can get a good idea of what he's thinking. I've been watching him closely since the experiment, and dammit, James, he's alive and content in there. He doesn't live in agony from a kyphoscoliosis-warped spine any more!"

James' face remained grim. He looked from the desperate face of Horatio, down to the picture of Arjun's lifeless body. He made a choked sound, like he was swallowing down the desire to cry out in despair. Eventually, he shook his head. "I'm sorry, Horatio. I want to believe you. I… I just can't. I'm sorry. I've got to take this to the police."

Horatio Avelar's eyes widened in anguish. "No, James! You don't understand—"

"No, Horatio, I'm afraid you're the one who doesn't understand." James stood, slowly from his chair. "I suspect they'll be looking for you before long. I'll… for old time's sake, I'll tell them I don't know where you are, or where you're going."

Time seemed to slow for Horatio as he watched his partner, his friend, walking towards the door, to doom him. Walking to doom them both. Walking to doom the future of entire damned species!

Weighed against a single life…

Horatio watched in shock as his hand grabbed the neck of the champagne bottle he had brought in. Rising, he saw himself swing the glass bottle quickly up from the desk. Watched it crack hard against James' skull. Watched the man drop to the floor.

Watched the blood begin to pool.

When Horatio's mind started working again, it started working fast.

Numbly, he walked around the desk, sitting in the now-ownerless chair. He pulled the white anti-static gloves from his pocket, and slid them onto his hands. Leaning down, he opened a low desk drawer, withdrawing the typewriter within. He sat it on the desk. His fingers found the keys and moved rapidly.

I, James Cole, being of sound mind, have realized that I must expiate my sins. I have killed a man. An immigrant, who works for my company, threatened to reveal my plans to sell my majority share of stock to an overseas buyer.

As he threatened to bring this information to my business partner, Horatio Avelar, I acted in a fit of rage, and utilized one of my partner's devices to deliver a powerful shock to the man's head, killing him.

I put the dead body into a shipment crate, intending to send his body to a landfill, to hide my crime. However, my sins are eating me from the inside, and I cannot continue to live with this weight on my soul.

When Horatio came upon me, I could not bear to confess my sins, and killed him with his own machine.

Please, forgive me.

He left the page in the typewriter, and grabbed the rectangular metal case from the top desk drawer, which was still slightly ajar. Rolling his thumbs over the numbered combination lock, he paused a moment. His cold, calculating mind cracked. The combination was 426. 4/26. His own birthday.

As he opened the gun case, withdrawing the pistol he had bought for James those years ago as a graduation gift, it started to dawn on him.

He had killed his best friend.

Horatio ground his teeth, firmly pushing the thought to the back of his skull, to wait to be processed. Time was still very much of the essence if he was going to salvage any of this disaster.

It took a lot of doing, but he pulled the body into a sitting position. With a final burst of strength, he hauled it to its feet. They wobbled together a moment, James's body still warm against him. He pressed the tip of the barrel to the abrasion the champagne bottle had left.


James Cole's body fell once again to the ground.

Horatio Avelar's watch beeped, alerting him that it was midnight. He didn't pay it any attention, and brought the nearly empty bottle of whiskey to his lips again, taking another deep pull.

The metal folding chair he was sitting in was uncomfortable, but he didn't care.

The workshop was nearly freezing, but he didn't bother to notice.

He could still feel the numbness in his hand, could still feel the recoil of the gun.

Could still see his face.

His best friend's damnable face.

He shrieked; a bitter and pained wail, torn from his body. He hurled the now-empty bottle to smash against one of two nearly identical, incomplete machines he had spent the previous month building. The momentum caused him to pitch forward out of his chair, falling unceremoniously to the ground. Sobs wracked his body.

When he managed to pull himself unsteadily to his feet, he shuffled towards a third computing machine. Though complete, it was smaller than the other two, and humming slightly. He ran his hand over the metal frame, letting the smooth, slightly warm hardware soothe his mind somewhat.


"Arjun… my friend… You still believe in me, don't you? You wouldn't turn your back on me…?" He studied the small numerical readout being slowly updated on the tiny digital display panel, but the numbers swam in his vision. Though whether that was the liquor, or his tears, or both, he couldn't tell.

"Why did he have to find your body? Just… just another few weeks and…and they would have been ready. I could have shown him…" Horatio pushed himself upright and staggered to the incomplete device his bottle had smashed again. "I built you a brain, James. A brain to keep you alive forever. Brains to keep us alive forever." A bitter smile twisted his face, though his tears did not relent. "What did… did you call it? Our undying friendship. That's what gave me the idea, you know."


He reached into the machine, gripping one of the delicate internal components, and with another pained wail, he ripped it out.

"I'm killing him again, you know, Arjun. This was supposed to be him." He studied the small circuit-board in his hand. "But there isn't any him left to put into it."


"Just me now." He pulled another handful of components from the machine, threw them to the ground around the machine set aside for himself. "Alone."

No reason to wait any longer.

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